Vanilla Bean Cheesecake with Bourbon Caramel Sauce

Oh cheesecake, cheesecake. I may have taken too many pictures this time to think of enough words to put in between them. But I’ll give it a try.

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I have made a lot of cheesecakes in my day. I decided to mix things up a bit this time, and make this cheesecake with goat cheese. I wasn’t sure if it would work. I was basing the entire experiment on the fact that goat cheese has a similar consistency to cream cheese. And since that isn’t very scientific, it could have turned out horribly. But it turned out pretty nice! The cake was a little bit softer than other cheesecakes I have made, but super delicious.

And this caramel sauce? Made with bourbon? Oh, baby…

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The crazy thing about cheesecake is that a lot of people think it’s really super hard to make a cheesecake from scratch. But it’s not so bad. It’s just that there are three little secrets to awesome cheesecake. Or maybe I should say three pitfalls to avoid.

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Number one: Over-mixing is bad. You can’t over-mix it. Because cheesecake is really not a cake, but a custard, and a custard relies on those little proteins to hold it together in a smooth and silky way. If you over-mix it, the proteins get all verclempt and your cheesecake can be grainy instead of smooth. Or something.

But, but, you want a consistent homogenous batter, right? Yeah, you do. If it’s lumpy you’ll have weird chunks in your cheesecake. So here’s what you do:

  • Make sure your cheese is at room temperature, so that it is more pliable and therefore mixes easily with the other ingredients.
  • Beat the cream cheese a lil before you put in the other ingredients. (But easy now, not too much!)
  • Scrape down your bowl. Frequently. Like, ALL THE TIME. There’s nothing worse than getting that batter all smooth and realizing there is an inch of cheese stuck to the bottom of your mixing bowl.

If you do these things, you should be able to get a nice, smooth batter without beating the shit out of it.

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Number two: Do not open the oven while it’s baking. I know it’s tempting. Just don’t do it.

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Number three: The last step in this recipe is to turn off the oven, open it for one minute, close it, and let the cheesecake sit for another hour. I know this seems silly, but don’t skip it. The cheesecake isn’t totally done baking after that first hour in the oven. This extra time lets it finish baking, set, and cool down very gradually. This will keep it from cracking.

Because crack is whack.

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So enough of my blabbering. Here’s the recipe:

Goat Cheese and Vanilla Bean Cheesecake

Adapted from Alton Brown’s Sour Cream Cheesecake.

Crust:

1 plastic sleeve of graham crackers, crumbled (about 2 cups)
1 stick unsalted butter, melted, plus additional, for brushing the pan
1 tablespoon sugar

Filling:

16 ounces goat cheese or chevre, room temp
4 ounces cream cheese, room temp
1 1/4 cups sour cream
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoon vanilla bean paste*, or 1 vanilla bean, insides scraped.
2 eggs
3 yolks
1/3 cup heavy cream

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Brush some of the melted butter around a 9 by 3-inch cake pan. Adhere parchment to the bottom.
  2. In a small bowl, combine crumbled graham crackers, the remaining melted butter, and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Press 2/3 of the mixture into the bottom of the parchment-lined pan. Place remaining crumbs on a sheet pan and bake both the crust and the remaining mixture for 10 minutes. Cool. Reserve additional crumb mixture for sides.
  3. In a mixer with a paddle attachment, beat goat cheese and cream cheese for 10 seconds. Add the sour cream and sugar and mix on low for 30 seconds and then turn up to medium. Scrape the bowl.
  4. In a separate container, lightly beat the vanilla bean paste, eggs, yolks, and heavy cream together.
  5. With the mixer on medium, slowly pour the liquid mixture in. When half of it is incorporated, stop and scrape. Continue adding the mixture until the rest of the ingredients are incorporated. Once completely combined, pour into the cooled crust.
  6. Lower oven temperature to 250 degrees F. Bake the cheesecake in the oven for 1 hour.
  7. Turn the oven off and open the door for one minute. Close the door for one more hour. Remove the cheesecake from the oven and place in the refrigerator for 6 hours or overnight to completely cool before serving. Don’t worry if it’s a little jiggly in the center. It will set.
  8. When ready to serve, remove the cake from the spring form pan. If you are having issues, you can place the entire cake pan into a hot water bath for about 15 seconds.
  9. Take the remaining graham cracker mixture and press into the sides of the cake.
  10. To slice, place your knife into a hot water bath and wipe dry each time you make a pass through the cake.

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Bourbon Caramel Sauce

Adapted from Martha Stewart.

2 cups sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 tbs vanilla bean paste*, or 1 vanilla bean, split in half lenthwise, seeds scraped.
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon bourbon (I used Maker’s Mark)

Directions

Combine sugar and 1/2 cup water in a 2-quart saucepan set over medium heat.
Without stirring, cook mixture until dark amber in color, swirling the pan carefully while cooking, about 20 minutes.Sometimes, this takes a little more than 20 minutes. And sometimes, the sugar has been known to crystallize before turning that amber color. Its all okay. Just persevere.
Reduce the heat to low. Slowly add cream, stirring with a wooden spoon. At this point, it may turn hard and you may have thought you’ve ruined it, but just be patient and keep stirring with that wooden spoon.
Add the vanilla bean paste, or scrape the vanilla seeds into the pan, and add the pod.
Add lemon juice, butter, and bourbon. Stir to combine.
Pour all over your cheesecake, or cover, and store, refrigerated, up to 1 week.

*I have also seen the vanilla bean paste for sale at William Sonoma, and Sur La Table.

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The goat cheese came from Riverview Dairy.

The eggs came from Crighton Farm.

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4 responses to “Vanilla Bean Cheesecake with Bourbon Caramel Sauce

  1. This recipe looks awesome. I showed my husband and he said, we had that cheese. Which we did, for about 10 minutes before it was all gone.

    What kind of fancy vanilla is that?

    • It was really, really good cheese!

      It’s just vanilla bean paste! They have it at Sur La Table, or William Sonoma. Or on the magical internet.

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